European Union Referendum

How do you see yourself voting?


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mowgli

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Let's just walk away without paying The EU a penny then watch drunken Juncker and Tusk come begging for us to accept a much better deal for The UK, it's about time they come to terms with the reasons we voted to leave a corrupt EU that has never had their accounts signed off and now they're crapping themselves after the Italian election with a massive swing to anti EU parties.
 

Laker

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So we have a transition deal through to December 2020 - obviously the additional time is a good thing but there are a couple of worries still, namely the Irish border, EU citizen rights right up to Dec20 and fishing quotas. But there you go, we’ve still got the best part of 3 years to get it all sorted.
 

silkyman

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Did the whole Cambridge Analytica, corruption, misspending and all that stuff get an airing on here?

Every day the referendum looks less legitimate and the Brexit being delivered is further and further away from what anyone was sold.
 

Fompous Part

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I previously posted a bit of tetchy rant on the subject. I have since deleted it because it won't advance the conversation one iota. Let's try it another way.

Explain to me why you think the CA/funding stuff delegitimises the referendum and we'll take it from there.
 

Laker

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I previously posted a bit of tetchy rant on the subject. I have since deleted it because it won't advance the conversation one iota. Let's try it another way.

Explain to me why you think the CA/funding stuff delegitimises the referendum and we'll take it from there.
Ah don’t be boring. Your previous post was great!
 
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I would have thought that any problems identified that seem at odds with a clean campaign - be they instances of overspending, data harvesting, misinformation etc - should automatically prompt questions about the fairness and legitimacy of a vote. That doesn't necessarily mean that anything not in accordance with the rules should render a vote illegitimate to the point where it necessitates an annulment/rerun - I assume you'd probably have needed to have identified significant corruption, rather than infringements for that - but I do think this sort of stuff matters. If we want to celebrate our much-vaunted democracy, then people need to have confidence in the processes, know that political parties or campaigning organisations are operating in accordance with the rules, and for there to be transparency and accountability. We're already beginning to see that technology provides some pretty powerful tools for rogue elements to subvert or manipulate the democratic process. As such, it would be irresponsible to swat these concerns aside, even if some of us might have a vested interest in raising them.
 

Fompous Part

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It would be irresponsible to swat these concerns aside, even if some of us might have a vested interest in raising them.
I'm not swatting aside the concerns. I'm inviting Silkyman, who raised the concerns, to elaborate. Hopefully we'll proceed to have a fact-based discussion about what both sides did vis-à-vis cross group ‘collusion’ and funding, followed by a reasonable discussion about whether any unfair advantage was gained. If I were on the Remain side, I wouldn't want to open that can of worms. But, hey, I'm not. So...

Ball's in his court.
 

.V.

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I would have thought that any problems identified that seem at odds with a clean campaign - be they instances of overspending, data harvesting, misinformation etc - should automatically prompt questions about the fairness and legitimacy of a vote. That doesn't necessarily mean that anything not in accordance with the rules should render a vote illegitimate to the point where it necessitates an annulment/rerun - I assume you'd probably have needed to have identified significant corruption, rather than infringements for that - but I do think this sort of stuff matters. If we want to celebrate our much-vaunted democracy, then people need to have confidence in the processes, know that political parties or campaigning organisations are operating in accordance with the rules, and for there to be transparency and accountability. We're already beginning to see that technology provides some pretty powerful tools for rogue elements to subvert or manipulate the democratic process. As such, it would be irresponsible to swat these concerns aside, even if some of us might have a vested interest in raising them.
This.

My concern is that it’ll happen again, if the people and organisations involved in this, aren’t severely punished, if they’re found to have broken the law.

Bad things will happen if people lose faith in the democratic process in this country.
 

AFCB_Mark

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My apologies as this is way too long. TL-DR section at the bottom.

My problem with the Cambridge Analytica stuff, is that despite considering myself somewhat technically competent, I haven't a flippin clue what to make of it all, and have really struggled to find objective analysis of the situation and what actually happened.

So to lay out what (I think) I understand. I get that CA was basically setup by Steve Bannon, one of the main men behind Trump's rise. I get CA operated within a shady structure of shell companies such SCL Group and SCL Elections. This structure could purchase data seemingly independently, but allegedly aggregate it to create datasets of such detail we would deem them downright frightening. It was all used as a tool by the Trump campaign.

One more detailed example of how that Trump campaign tool was created, was that CA purchased data from a (for once completely separate) social media analytics company, who basically duped Facebook users into giving up data via various Facebook interactions such as quizzes this analytic company created.

I get that CA took this data off Facebook and stored it on it's own servers, using it for their own ends. They were then able to use Facebook's advertisement platforms and pro Trump Facebook groups, to target Trump related messages to voters based on the physiological and demographical models they created from the data they procured. Allegedly violating Facebook terms of usage (although that's going to be strongly argued either way in courts)

Onto Brexit, it would seem Vote Leave purchased 'services' for £625k from AggregateIQ, allegedly another firm linked to CA, within this shady structure of SCL Group companies (but we're not really sure). In a potential breach of UK electoral law (but we're not really sure) because the money went via other Brexit Leave campaigns.

Note: the alleged issue being how the money got there, but not what was actually purchased with it. We don't know what AggregateIQ actually did for Vote Leave. So far there's been little to no detail on that, whether anything SCL group did for them could have breached UK electoral law. Whether it was anything on the vast scale of assistance as we reckon the Trump campaign received. It's all guilty by association at this stage, but we don't even know whether the CA/SCL group were guilty of anything in the US!

So there's lots of investigations to happen for sure. What we do know is that it's very creepy and on morally shaky ground. That I don't think can be disputed.

On the one side we've got media on the right pumping out the 'whataboutery' line that: when Obama's campaigns used social media to build models and target different demographics with selected messages, it was hailed as success, just 'the new way of campaigning' and 'mobilising the vote', and showed how advanced the Democrat's machine was.

We do at least know that Obama's own campaign team were open about data from Facebook "was a huge part of our digital strategy". They "knew that the vast majority of voters, something like 97 percent of the U.S. electorate, could be reached if everyone who was following Barack Obama (and pro Obama Facebook groups) on Facebook shared a piece of content"

And in doing so we know Obama's campaign "got your list of your friends and then we matched it to our models". They say "we were really minimalist in how we used that data" (honest guv). But at least they have been fairly open about it I suppose, although there was and will be no such microscope as we're seeing now into the CA/SCL group to test their openness.

Bottom line I guess - It was all above board, legal within the Facebook terms and conditions (at the time). But morally, is it still a little creepy? Did it not warrant questions at the time? Honestly not sure.

On the other hand you've got the likes of Channel 4 now laying everything from Trump to Brexit as the fault of Facebook and CA and it's various sister companies, with Bannon as this giant bogeyman/evil mastermind. Apparently people only voted for these horrendous outcomes because they're mindless social media controlled sheeple (which I find slightly insulting as a vote leaver).

It's definitely all creepy, nobody can disagree there. And I hope/I'm sure it wakes people up to how we are all basically valuable data points to big tech companies. That has to be a big takeaway from it all.

Whilst the legalities and terms of service arguments will rumble on and presumably at some point come to conclusions that may result in punishments for people related to CA. I'm just struggling to draw a moral line here, between what is acceptable usage of our social media and what is not acceptable.

Why was it's usages in 2008 and 2012 deemed acceptable, but 2016 deemed so much more distasteful? How on earth do we write laws to govern and regulate this? If 2016 was deemed too far, how do we make sure we row back from that, and find an appropriate level of social media usage/manipulation for political campaigns - as it's unlikely to go away now that it's one of the foremost ways people consume news.

Facebook have said they will "restrict developers' data access even further to prevent other kinds of abuse" and will take steps to help users "understand which apps you've allowed to access your data.". Sounds great as a start. But electoral rules can't be based on Facebook's Ts &Cs (which change every few months).

TL-DR
I'm confused about the facts and cynical about the framing of all this. And I'm very much reminded of The Circle, if any of you have read the superb book by Dave Eggers (or seen the slightly disappointing film starring Emma Watson). This comes so close to the black/white/grey political issues that Eggers raises later in the book.
 

Fompous Part

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Well, Silkyman has had a few days to elaborate and hasn’t. Perhaps he’s been busy. Perhaps he’s still investigating. In the meantime, I thought I’d follow Mark’s lead and write a long-winded summary of my take.

I’m not tech-savvy. Unless we’re counting old-fashioned message boards like this, I don’t really do social media. No Twitter. No Facebook. On the whole, I think it's banal vanity publishing and an enormous waste of time.

So while I don’t really ‘get’ this Big Data Destroys Western Democracy story, I’m mindful that this might merely reflect my ignorance of the relevant technology. That’s why I asked for detail.

My impression is that online data harvesting and targeted advertising are fairly common nowadays. Political campaigns have been using them for at least 10 years, and it seems highly suspicious that certain parties (e.g. The Observer, Channel 4, et al.) are only getting Helen Lovejoy about it now that non-left ‘populist’ movements have supposedly used them to achieve success.

Still, that doesn’t mean something untoward hasn’t occurred. So, a question: Is there a reason why we're concerned about this now but weren't 5-10 years ago? I mean, a good reason focused on what was actually done, one that transcends the sort of confirmation-bias-driven cherry picking that is often at the root of inconsistent reactions in politics?

As far as this relates to Brexit, Vote Leave and BeLeave, my understanding is pretty much the same as Mark's. The rule-breaking concern is that the £625K donated by Vote Leave to BeLeave was basically a wheeze to get around official campaign spending limits. Dominic Cummings has posted some rather lengthy blogs on this subject. The key one is here for those who fancy a long read. For those who don’t, the crux is he rejects the charge and claims that he sought and gained approval from the Electoral Commission. If true, it seems unlikely that anything major is going to come from this. One can debate whether official campaigns should be able to donate money in this way and not have it counted as official expenditure (for the record, I don't think they should), but it would be absurd to retrospectively punish Vote Leave for something the EC previously gave approval for.

It may be worth noting at this juncture that Guido* has reported that the Remain campaign used the same wheeze (i.e. the official campaign donating large sums to registered permitted participants) but spent more money doing so.

It may also be worth noting certain 'big picture' facts like the government spending approx. £9m of taxpayers' money on Remain propaganda (including a pro-Remain booklet distributed to over 25m households) just before the campaign started, i.e. just before the official spending limits applied. Shouldn't any discussion about spending and unfair advantages start there?

To be clear, I'm not drawing attention to this stuff to distract attention away from Vote Leave's possible wrongdoing, nor am I trying to argue that rule-breaking doesn’t matter if all parties do it. FWIW, one of the few concrete ideas I took away from Cummings’ blogs (and a few other things I’ve read) is that many of the rules are unhelpfully unclear and the PPERA requires reform. If you read the post-referendum reports issued by the Electoral Commission (see here), it’s clear they have concerns too.

My concern is that the folk pushing this story don’t appear to be taking a high-minded, bi-partisan position driven by genuine concern for the integrity of our democratic processes. The angle being worked is that Leave cheated and therefore the referendum must be voided. Since that's the narrative, it would be remiss of me not to ask for (1) a detailed explanation about what rules were broken; (2) an analysis even-handed enough to consider the transgressions of both sides; and (3) a strong, evidence-based argument that an unfair advantage was gained.

*I realise Guido isn't to everyone's taste (not a huge fan myself), but the Observer articles were written by a journalist who didn't even look at Remain's financing, which makes her take about as even-handed as an exposé in Jen Brexit’s Watch. If people expect me to take Cadwalladr seriously, they should at least look at the Guido stuff and give it a fair hearing.
 
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silkyman

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I actually thought I had replied, but for some reason it isn’t here. If you don’t think that illegal spending that was used to target marginal voters using illegally gained data to isolate key targets had any influence in the referendum, then you have to ask why the Tories were talking to CA in the run up to their 2017 GE. If this system didn’t work, why do they boast about its track record?
 

Ebeneezer Goode

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As far as we know it was neither illegal spending nor illegally gained data though. It was a loophole exploited rather underhandedly, but then again I'm not sure Cameron spending taxpayer money to distribute £9m worth of pro-Remain leaflets was in the spirit of a fair battle of ideas either. There was calls for legal challenge to that too, on similarly flimsy grounds.
 

Fompous Part

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Not sure why you thought it necessary to re-post it here, Mark. Surely it was given due prominence on, err, page 50 of yesterday's Observer?
 
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Ebeneezer Goode

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If they've acted illegally then entering into insolvency won't protect them. In reality all they're probably doing is jettisoning the toxic 'Cambridge Analytica' PR and reforming with most of the same people as 'Emerdata'.
 

Benji

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If they've acted illegally then entering into insolvency won't protect them. In reality all they're probably doing is jettisoning the toxic 'Cambridge Analytica' PR and reforming with most of the same people as 'Emerdata'.
Oh I understand. Like all good ethical businesses, they just don't want to have a recognisable brand name.
 

Super_horns

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Angry people in the Sun and Mail letter pages (only read them in the work canteen mainly for the sport!)

Not happy about Mrs May not giving them the full out Brexit they wanted..

Was that naive of them to think that would happen?​
 
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Angry people in the Sun and Mail letter pages (only read them in the work canteen mainly for the sport!)​
Not happy about Mrs May not giving them the full out Brexit they wanted..​
Was that naive of them to think that would happen?​
Yes, very much so. Though the government's been promoting a delicious "cake and eat it" brexit ever since the referendum result (much like the Leave campaign did during the campaign) so one can't really blame them.
 

Fompous Part

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Was that naive of them to think that would happen?
It’s been an unrealistic expectation since last June, when the governing party stood on an explicitly ‘Hard Brexit’ manifesto and lost its majority.

Back in 2016 it was reasonable to expect the government to at least pursue ‘Hard Brexit’ (which is the Brexit both sides assumed during the campaign, even if some now pretend otherwise) with a certain degree of unity, determination and competence.

Now that’s a pipe dream. I hate to say it, but it is. Contingency planning that should have been done before invoking Article 50 still hasn’t been done a year after invoking it! How should one interpret that? In my nuttier moments I entertain conspiracy theories that a Remain cabal within the cabinet is deliberately botching it to lay the ground for a U-turn. Then I remember that requires a degree of intelligence and cunning none of them seem to possess, in which case I am left with the more mundane explanation that they simply lack the required will and talent. Either way, there’s no positive spin to put on it. Not that I can see.

It was a mistake. The EU is bunch of bollocks and I stand by every argument I’ve ever made for leaving it, but it was obviously a mistake to attempt something this seismic without a government possessing the competence, enthusiasm and determination to see it through, as well as a clear mandate for its vision.

Ours is a government of fourth-raters who are 'doing' Brexit grudgingly because they feel democratically obliged to, and they’re doing it badly. The Tories deserve to be out of power for 20 years after this. I say this as a Tory.

EU-sceptics like me got impatient. Peter Hitchens warned us this would happen. We didn’t listen to him.

We fucked up. We thought the government would be better. FWIW, I’m sorry.

(Disclaimer: I have been on the Lagavulin for several hours and reading about David Davis’s Carry on Sergeant misadventures seems to have caused a rapid descent into deep gloom and melancholy. I reserve the right to rescind all of this in the morning).
 

Benji

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That is a genuinely hilarious juxtaposition. I'm sure Brexiteers knew they were voting to move away from little things like the forefront of aerospace technology so we can focus on securing the juiciest plums for this once great nation.
 

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